Apple had a great month in the new app department, mostly spurred by the release of the iPhone 4S and all the iOS5-based applications that developers have been working on throughout the summer. Android also had an interesting month for new apps but the real intriguing flood will come whenever Ice Cream Sandwich becomes widely adopted and, finally, we can start adding real Android tablets apps to our apps of the month column. Check out the selections for October 2011 below. We again brought back the updates portion of the column, with a list at the bottom of important app updates users should be aware of. Check it out below.
The list, as always, is a bit subjective so please let us know in the comments if we missed an app or you have found one that you cannot live without.
This is not exactly a new service, but the late-October release of its 3.0 version for iOS and Android makes it a good candidate for a cross-platform app of the month. News360 is often compared as a "Pandora for news." As such, News360 plays in the same realm as News.me, Newsy, Flipboard and most of all, Zite. We have written about News360 multiple times at ReadWriteWeb over the last several months. It crawls the Google+ API for personalized news and has Facebook and Twitter integration to personal news.
Bring your own personal karaoke machine with you wherever you go. Really, that is about as simple as it takes to describe Red Karaoke. It streams music to your phone with the words so you can sing along. It can also record you dubious renditions for posterity so you can show off to all your friends the audio and video of you killing it on Free Bird while on the bus.
Anybody that knows me knows that I am a sucker for a good sports app. I am also a hockey nut, having spent multiple years as a NHL beat reporter and still freelancing in the sports realm on a semi-regular basis. Other sports apps make it into the Apps Of The Month catalogue, why not the NHL? This year's version of the NHL Gamecenter acts as your daily hockey diary on the go for scores, schedules, news and highlights. If you upgrade to the premium version you get radio broadcasts and video highlights, among other features.
Apple had a big month, so let's start with some of the big apps and some smaller ones that you may not have heard of.
Siri -- (With purchase of iPhone 4S)
Siri has become a cultural phenomenon within a month of its release. If you have an iPhone 4S, ask Siri what the meaning of life is. There is a good chance she (it?) will say 42, which is the most appropriate answer I can think of to that question (but, damnit, what is the question?) Siri has spawned some funny sites, such as this one that takes look at people asking Siri some serious or naughty questions. We at ReadWriteWeb think that Siri should actually have the voice of George Takei, but there are an inordinate amount of Star Trek fans on staff. I voted for a Yoda voice. On a more serious note, Siri lets people search the Web, send texts, emails, phone calls and a bunch of other features through voice-activated software. The genius behind Siri is not the technology but rather that Apple gave Siri a personality, one of the company's more brilliant marketing insights in years.
Facebook for iPad -- (Free)
When Facebook finally released an iPad version of its platform, the entire world of tablet carrying social denizens yelled at once, "it is about bloody time." The Facebook iPad app is a significant upgrade to using the iPhone version at 2X setting. It is simple, functional, handles status updates and pictures well and institutes just about everything that Facebook has tweaked within the platform over the last several months. The future of Facebook mobile resides with HTML5, especially Timeline, but the iPad app at least gets people off the social giant's back for the time being.
Find My Friends -- (Free With iOS5 and iCloud Support)
Stalking your friends has never been easier. Find My Friends works by sending a request to a friend to see their location and their location will pop up on a map. There are sharing options and privacy controls. It is a simple and powerful cloud-based location app from Apple that could be great for people bar hopping in San Francisco or Manhattan and want to find where their friends have bounced to after too many rounds of Jagermeister.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation -- (iPad -- $6.99)
The trend of releasing dynamic console apps to tablets continues with Modern Combat 3. This is a stunning game for the iPad for those that like the whole shoot-em-up military combat games. The graphics are excellent and do not lag on the iPad 2 while the controls are designed for multi-touch and gestures. Really, a breakthrough in games for mobile devices.
Pawntique -- (Free -- iPhone)
This is one of those apps that you probably have not heard of. Pawntique is an app that helps you pawn stuff for cash. It helps people secure short term cash loans on items they wish to pawn, just like your local hock shop. Pawntique will appraise items when you send them to the service or have an expert come to you (for larger items). When it is time to ship, Pawntique will send a courier to pick up the item. If you send the item in, Pawntique will appraise it and make an offer, which you can accept or decline.
SoundCloud -- (Free -- iPad)
SoundCloud is not a new service, but its iPad app was just released at the end of October. Our John Paul Titlow shows us how SoundCloud can make the iPad into a truly dynamic content creation device by allowing users to record sound and share it amongst friends. This could be a great device for indie bands that want cheap distribution, podcasts for Internet personalities or a recording tool for journalists. Evernote for iPhone and Android has voice recording capabilities that it syncs to the cloud for playback just about anywhere. That is what SoundCloud does, just with a better UI, social sharing and overall functionality.
Lookout -- (Free -- iPhone)
The security app that is not a security app. Lookout caused a minor controversy on ReadWriteWeb when we wrote about it in the middle of October. Really, what Lookout does for iPhone users is remind them to be diligent about security. It tells you if you are on insecure WiFi, makes sure you have the latest version of iOS on the device, can remote lock and wipe the device or find it through location settings and a Lookout account. It does not do anti-virus, but, does it need to?
MobiUs -- (Free -- iOS)
MobiUs is a mobile browser that is dedicated to bringing great Web apps using HTML5 to iOS. It also acts as a browser extension with eyes on helping HTML5 kill Flash on mobile devices once and for all. Check out our coverage of MobiUs here and here.
Android came out with Ice Cream Sandwich this month but the apps for the new tasty version of Google's mobile OS have not yet hit the shelves. Here are some interesting and functional Android apps to keep an eye out for.
Iris -- (Free)
What is Siri spelled backwards? Iris! It is like Siri's evil Android twin. The rumor goes that Iris was put together by a group of hackers in a matter of hours in an attempt to give Android Siri-like capabilities. It can do almost everything that Siri can do such as use voice to search the Web, send texts and make phone calls. Iris is not quite as cute and sardonic as Siri but does the trick, giving Android's voice capabilities a boost. Most new Android devices will have its requirements (Voice Search and TTS library) pre-installed. The difference between Siri and Iris is several million dollars of development time and multiple years of refinement of Siri's capabilities and feedback outputs. But, Iris has potential.
Marvel Comics -- (Freemium)
Love Android? Love comics? Love Captain America? You are now in luck. The Marvel Comics app for Android brings the Marvel library to mobile (an iOS version was released earlier this year) as a spot for downloading and purchasing comics of the iconic line of super heroes from Marvel. Really, what nerd does not geek out with comics?
Mobo Task Killer -- (Free)
Just about everybody I know has Advanced Task Killer on their Android devices. This is the next evolution. It monitors apps that are running in the background and lets you kill them to save battery life with a button called "optimize." It can also perform this capability with a shake of the phone. It has all the goodness of Advanced Task Killer, with the ability to go into the app and individually check apps that you want to stop running. There is also an ignore list for apps that you do not want to ever shut down. This app literally just took the place of Advanced Task Killer on my Android. That is saying something for one of my most used apps ever.
Skitch -- (Free)
I admit, this is a little bit of cheating on my own rules. Normally an App Of The Month needs to be released in the month that is being written about. Skitch, the popular screen-grabbing tool bought by Evernote earlier this year, technically came to Android at the end of September. But, since Skitch is perhaps my favorite desktop application of all time, exceptions can be made. Download screen shots, annotate pictures, add art to pictures you have taken, crop, zoom, markup, add filters, Skitch does it all. The best part? Once you are done with your picture, you can save it to Evernote. (Note, Skitch for Mac used to take the below screen shot of Skitch for Android. So meta.)
Drunk Man -- (Free)
Like games so stupid and simple that they turn out to be a lot funner than you ever thought possible? Drunk Man is the game for you. Basically, you have this guy who went on a bender. He leans to the left and you have to adjust by tapping to the right. Vice versa for the other way. This guy is pretty drunk so the game is actually quite a bit harder than you might think. Try it after a couple cocktails and watch your whole world collapse upon itself, in a gutter, with a brown paper bag.
Espier Launcher -- (Free)
Are you an Android owner with iPhone envy? Don't be. Espier is an application launcher that makes you Android look just like an iPhone 4/S. It can create folders just like iOS and has gesture motions to open apps, close apps or bring up folders. Who needs to be different? Everything comes back to Apple eventually.
Notable Updates For October
It is always important to remember to go into your device and update apps on a regular basis. Updates provide new functionality, performance and security upgrades and make sure that the bugs from the last version have been taken care of.
Notable iOS Updates:
- Pandora, XFinity TV, Dropbox, PlainText, Bing for iPad, Instagram, Google Search, Google+, Washington Post, IMBb Movies & TV, Zaarly, HeyStacks, 7Notes, Evernote, Bank of America, Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery, Angry Birds Rio (Might Eagle), Read It Later Free, Pulse, Showyou, Qwiki, Flipboard, Quora, Foursquare, Order & Chaos Online, Flixster, Twitter.
Notable Android Updates:
- Barcode Scanner, Bolt Browser, Camera Fun Pro, Dolphin Browser (security fix), FxCamera, LinkedIn, Flixster, OpenTable, Opera Mobile Browser, Pulse, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google+, IMBd Movies & TV, Robo Defense, QR Droid, Match.com.